You’ve probably noticed that there’s a lot of conflicting business development advice out there.
If you’re earning less than about $50,000 per year in your coaching, consulting, freelancing or wellness business, you’ll also hear a lot of advice that you’re simply not ready for.
This includes topics like automation, scaling, creating online courses and pretty much everything that promises to show you how to build a 6 or 7 figure business quickly and with minimal effort.
As much as people would like to skip the hard work of building a solid foundation by following someone else’s “proven” blueprint, when you’re in the early stages of your business – which can often last a few years – you need to focus on getting the following 3 things right.
This is especially true if you want to build a YOU Shaped business instead of being a copycat of someone else.
1. Figuring out who is going to buy from you
Your potential clients are not “everybody” or “anybody” – regardless of how universally helpful your service may be.
Whether you call it a target market, a niche, a demographic, an ideal client – you need to figure out what kinds of people (or businesses) actually buy from you.
A good, solid service business is client-focused.
A client-focused business offers services designed to solve their clients’ problems or help them get what they want – and marketing messages focused on their needs, desires, questions and concerns.
To do this well, you need to get “inside their heads” and develop a deep understanding of who they are and the problems they are experiencing.
2. Figuring out how to talk about what you do in a way that results in people buying from you
There are 3 stages to this process.
You’ll want to start by developing a clear, confident and conversational answer to the “so…what do you do?” question.
If you attend networking events, you’ll also need a prepared introduction (often referred to as an “elevator pitch”) – and no! They are not the same things!
Next, you need to be able to describe the services you offer in terms of what your potential client will get from working with you. (As opposed to giving an in-depth detail laden description of HOW you do the thing you do.)
You’ll use these words both in conversation with potential clients – and on all your written materials (website, brochures, handouts, advertisements, emails, etc.)
Finally, you also need to be able to confidently conduct a sales conversation. You don’t need a pushy, manipulative script – but you do need to be able to build rapport, direct the conversation, ask probing questions and confidently ask someone to purchase.
3. Figuring out how to deliver exceptional services
Ask any established coach, consultant, freelancer or wellness practitioner how they get their clients, and I guarantee you’ll hear this: “repeat clients and word of mouth.”
I have never ever ever heard a successful service professional say that most of their clients come from “posting motivational quotes on Facebook.”
Repeat business and word of mouth referrals come from providing exceptional service.
It comes from caring about your clients. From having good systems and communication. It comes from packaging what you offer into a service that solves a problem for them or helps them get the results they are looking for.
It may mean bringing several modalities together into one special unique service. It might mean creating frameworks and systems for your clients. It could mean developing service packages or programs that lead clients through a step-by-step process.
It definitely means working extra hard in the beginning to make sure people are happy with what they are getting, being quick to resolve any issues that arise and asking for feedback on a regular basis.
And hello chicken and egg situation…
You won’t be able to do any of this well until you’re actually working with clients
You can spend weeks meditating on who your ideal clients could be and how they might describe their problems – and you’ll end up with a good guess.
You’ll then need to test your assumptions on real live people.
After you’ve worked with a few clients, you’ll develop a lot more clarity. You’ll see who shows interest and who is willing to pay. You’ll discover that some clients are great to work with – and you’ll experience the “client from hell.”
With this real world information, you can discern the traits that make some clients “ideal” and you can hone your messaging to reach more of them. (You’ll also develop the spidey senses to avoid the others.)
Your clients will tell you everything you need to know in order to effectively market your services. They’ll tell you their problems, they’ll talk about what they want instead, they’ll ask questions – all you need to do is listen carefully.
You won’t know if your description of what you do really lands with people until you try it out to see how people respond.
By working with actual clients and responding to their feedback and results, you can refine your services based on what they need and want. Together, you can co-create the kinds of service packages that lead to glowing testimonials, repeat business and word of mouth referrals.
All of this will take practice, experimentation and refinement over time.
Going from 0 to 50 isn’t quick and easy – it takes time and practice – and it’s messy
Getting a business off the ground will require time, persistence, courage and hard work. Some of this work will feel awkward and uncomfortable – at least at first.
You cannot avoid this part by buying a “proven shortcut” from someone. Some education and coaching can shorten the learning curve and get you through it faster, but through it you must go.
This first stage is where you gain clarity, confidence and the basic sales and marketing skills you need to succeed.
You’ll learn who your best clients are and where to find them. You’ll learn how to talk about what you do in a way that leads to sales. You’ll have experience delivering a service that people love and you’ll start to get clients by referral.
And when you get there?
You’ll have a solid foundation to build on and you’ll be able to implement that advice about automating, scaling up and developing courses.
Or you can simply take what you’ve learned already, continue to grow organically and create a decent income working for yourself on your own terms.
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